Refugees and the Fire of War

Updated on July 9, 2020

The Photograph

Anne Frank

The Afghan Girl

One of the first things Donald Trump said he wanted to do was deport two to three million people from the United States. So, what exactly is it like to be a refugee? Anne Frank was a refugee. She was denied access to live in the United States. She was killed very soon afterwards. The picture taken by National Geographic photographer, Steve McCurry, of the girl from Afghanistan became one of the most famous photographs in the world. It was the cover photo of National Geographic for June of 1985. The photo was of a twelve-year-old girl in a refugee camp in Pakistan who fled from Afghanistan during the time of the Soviet Invasions. She became known as "the Afghan Girl". Her real name is Sharbat Gula and she is a descendant of the one the most war like tribes, "Pashtun".

Sharbat Gula

Fleeing from War

The Pashtuns are described as only being at peace when they are at war. Her life has been very hard. There were twenty-three years of war with 1.5 million killed and 3.5 million refugees. When she was six years old, Soviet bombing killed her parents. Her brother, Kasher Kahn, said that they fled Afghanistan because of the fighting. He and his four sisters along with their grandmother walked to Pakistan. They traveled for a week straight over snow covered mountains begging other people for blankets to try and stay warm. The planes were bombing twenty-four-seven and they would run into caves to try and stay alive. They finally arrived at a refugee camp where they were surrounded by strangers in tents and it was very difficult. At the time her photograph was taken in a refugee camp in 1985, she was angry at the photographer because he was a total stranger who wanted to take her picture. Obviously, she eventually let him take him take it but it took patience and professional skill on the part of the photographer to coax her into it.

Sharbat Gula

Her life as Adult

Her brother said that the only happy day of her life was her wedding day. She eventually left the refugee camp after getting married and settled in the mountainous Tora Bora region of Afghanistan. A typical day in her life consisted of rising before sunrise and praying before getting water from a stream. Then she cooked, did laundry, and cleaned while taking care of her children who were the main focus in her life. Her oldest daughter Robina was 13, with second daughter Zahita being 3. Alia was the baby at one. The fourth daughter died in infancy. Her husband remembers marrying her at 16, although she claimed she was thirteen, as it was an arranged marriage. Her husband worked in Pakistan, and due to her being asthmatic, she could not always live in the inner city where he worked. She wanted an education for her children. She wasn't able to continue with school and wanted her daughters to be able to. Although, this never happened.

Arrested and Deported

Sharbat Gula was arrested in October of 2016 in Pakistan for illegally obtaining national identity cards. She was facing fourteen years in prison and having to pay a fine of $3,000 to $5,000. After a year long investigation, Gula's house was raided and she was arrested. Pakistan is home to 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees. Previously in 2016, Pakistan extended a deadline for refugees to register with the government. Considering her lack of education she may not have known how to register with the government in Pakistan or she may have had a distrust of them due to her prior experiences in life. She was sentenced to fifteen days in jail and fined. Upon spending 11 days in jail, she received medical treatment in a hospital for Hepatitis C. She was deported back to Afghanistan. Her nephews said she was never aware of her fame and never capitalized on it in large part because her family did not approve of women being photographed. The photograph taken of her when she was twelve was the only photograph taken of her up until she was photographed again by the same photographer in 2002. Amnesty International condemned having her deported calling it "cruel".

"By sending her back to a country she hasn't seen in a generation and her children have never known, her plight has become emblematic of Pakistan's cruel treatment of Afghan refugees."---Champa Patel, Amnesty International's South Asia Direcetor


Pakistan started cracking down on Afghanistan refugees because they thought they posed a security threat. Different human rights groups have said that Pakistan authorities cruelly harassed them and raided their homes making their lives such a living hell they didn't have any other option other than to return to Afghanistan even though violence and war are getting worse there every day. Pakistan argued that she received a light sentence claiming that had she been anyone else she would be imprisoned for years. She is one of several refugees being removed from both the countries of Pakistan and Iran.

Hate Crimes Increase

Herschel Grynszpan, 17 Years Old

The Beginning of WWII

Herschel Grynszpan was a Polish-Jewish refugee born in Germany on March 28, 1921. In September of 1936 he entered France illegally after suffering from discrimination in Germany and his parents telling him he had no future in Germany. The reason it was illegal was because he had no financial support and it was not permitted for Jews to take money out of Germany. In August of 1937, he was ordered to leave France or be deported. He had no where to go. He was not allowed to return to Poland, Germany, or anywhere. He could not get a job because he was in France illegally. So, he lived in poverty and was constantly in hiding from the French police who were looking for him. He was described by a few people who knew him as being a shy and intensely emotional teenager who was often crying when talking about his obsession with the sufferings of Jews around the World. On October 26, 1938, the Gestapo started arresting and deporting all Polish Jews living in Germany. Poland would not take them. The Jewish people were left stranded at the border between Poland and Germany. Herschel's sister sent him a postcard describing how hard their lives were there. Herschel on November 7, 1938, bought a gun and bullets and went to the German embassy and shot to death German embassy official Ernst von Roth. He shouted, "You're a filthy boche." He was acting in revenge for 12,000 Jews. The German people were outraged. Following this, Krillstallnacht took pace and the Holocaust soon followed.

"Being a Jew is not a crime. I am not a dog. I have a right to live and the Jewish people have a right to exist on Earth. Wherever I have been, I have been chased like an animal."---Herschel Grynszpan

Donald Trump on Immigration

Building Walls of Hatred

Herschel Grynszpan was not a German citizen even though he was born in Germany due to a law by Germany that did not permit the children of Jewish immigrants to be German citizens. Donald Trump wants to implement a similar law in the United States. He came up with an idea some people say is highly child like saying that we are going to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. Of course, he thinks that Mexico is going to pay for this. When I was in France under the Bush administration and met with a class of people at the U.S. Embassy, the diplomat said that France was very concerned about people from Afghanistan, etc. coming into the ghettos of France and causing crime and other problems. The United States entered war with Afghanistan and Iraq causing an influx of refugees seeking asylum in France and all of Western Europe. The European community has taken in far more people from the middle East than the United States. If Donald Trump deports people and no longer accepts immigrants into the United States, the prediction is that we as Americans will be looked upon with real hatred by the rest of the world.

Trump's Wall

The Wall

The Warsaw Ghetto

Other then having the Jewish people register with the government (the same as Donald Trump wants to do with Muslims and other people) Nazi Germany also built a wall. The largest ghetto in Nazi Germany was the Warsaw ghetto. It was build in October and November of 1940 in part of the territory of German occupied Poland. The wall was typically 9.8 feet high and topped with barbed wire. Anyone who tried to escape was shot on sight. It created a hug divide among people.

The Nuclear Weapons

Call to Peace

The election of Donald Trump was the most divisive election in my lifetime. Please remember that even though some are for him and some against him, we must stay united and avoid war. If you are going to protest, please do so peacefully. Please do not resort to violence. If you are going to resort to dividing people, violence, and discord, then you are no better than that which you are protesting. Even though the world is made of many different countries we all share the same world. Sharbat Gula wanted for her kids the same as any mother would want: she wanted an education for them. She wanted them to be healthy and lead peaceful, productive lives.

"I want my daughters to have skills. I wanted to finish school but could not. I was sorry when I had to leave."---Sharbat Gula


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